Grinding Gear Games, the New Zealand-based developers behind Path of Exile, have sold “a majority stake” – so up to 80% of the company’s shares – to Chinese publishers Tencent, for an undisclosed amount.
Grinding Gear Games managing director Chris Wilson says that the deal will allow the developers to expand their team. “We’re looking to increase our headcount over the next year from 114 full time employees to around 130. We’re planning to do more expansions for our games, in parallel, and of course bolstering the team will be really useful in achieving that.”
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The team made the announcement on their website. They make it clear that “we will remain an independent company and there won’t be any big changes to how we operate. We want to reassure the community that this will not affect the development and operations of Path of Exile.”
Tencent began publishing Path of Exile in China last year. Grinding Gear Games say they accepted the offer not just because Tencent is one of the largest publishers in the world, but also because they have a reputation for respecting developers and their decisions. “Tencent’s agenda is clear: to give us the resources to make Path of Exile as good as it can be”.
According to the FAQ, the team will not be making changes to Path of Exile such as making it pay-to-win or giving the Chinese version preference, and Grinding Gear Games is still an independently-run company – Tencent just own up to 80% of their shares. They add that “we will have financial reporting obligations to Tencent, but this will have minimal impact on our philosophy and operations”.
Aside from Grinding Gear, Tencent have made a number of big investments already this year. They’re looking at increasing their stake in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds developers Bluehole, bought 5% of Ubisoft, and have invested $15 million in Fortnite esports – and they already own 40% of Fortnite’s Epic Games.